CRANDALL, Ga. — Broken Heart Ranch in Crandall has opened its gates to kids with special needs.
Monday morning, 11 autistic students from Woodlawn Elementary stepped through the gate, mounted a horse and accomplished a major milestone — all thanks to the Morrison family and Broken Heart Ranch.
About four years ago, Jamie and Michelle Morrison were given this land in Crandall, Georgia — with one condition, fill it with cows and kids. Since then, that’s been their mission.
“There’s just such a need for these kids to have something to do to keep that out of trouble and off the streets, out from in front of the TV and the video games,” owner Michelle Morrison said. “The minute they get on these horses, you can tell it’s therapy. They relax in the saddle. They start smiling. They might talk for the first time.”
Children with autism often struggle with processing sensory information. So Morrison set up stations to help organize the day and keep the kids from being overwhelmed.
“They’ve really gone above thinking about what my children and his children need. Not just doing something to come out,” Woodlawn Elementary teacher Melody Hilty said.
Hilty and her colleague Greg Cleary say they didn’t know if any of their kids would brave the horseback riding.
“I thought that if we got two to ride, that we would be doing, you know, having a great day,” Hilty said. “And I had everybody to ride the horse today.”
One student named Angel surprised many.
“Him getting on the horse and riding the horse was absolutely almost a miracle,” Cleary said.
“Just being out here around the horses these kids were at peace. They had fun. Just seeing them smile and laugh, and interact with each other and the adults, the volunteers, that was awesome,” Morrison said.
And according to the kids, the day can be summed up in one word…
“H-A-P-P-Y. Happy,” said student Ethan Clark.
Morrison hopes more groups like this will come find a bit of joy on the back of her horses.